Free Markets, Free People
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the top stories of the past week.
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Subject(s): Ted Kennedy’s passing and what, if anything, that means for health care. The CIA kerfuffle. And whatever else comes to mind while we’re talking.
Eric Zorn does a little “what if” in the Chicago Trib, wondering if Ted Kennedy could have survived Chappaquiddick in today’s news environment.
If we’d had insatiable 24/7 cable news networks in July 1969, the accident on Chappaquiddick Island in which a passenger in a car driven by Sen. Edward Kennedy drowned would likely have dominated the national consciousness for months.
Zorn then proceeds from the premise that Kennedy’s life and work after that event make the point that it is a good thing we didn’t have the 24/7 news cycle because we’d have lost a giant among legislators.
Of course, you have to accept his premise that Kennedy’s life and work after Chappaquiddick were worthwhile to sign on to the premise. I, for one, don’t.
I mean this is a guy who, as he schemed to figure out a way to become president, tried to make a deal with the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov, to undermine Ronald Reagan and gain politically.
So there are probably just as many out here who might have welcomed such coverage if it had had the desired effect of running Kennedy out of public life.
“Politically, Kennedy wouldn’t have survived that kind of media bombardment,” said Bruce DuMont, president of Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications and host of “Beyond the Beltway,” a national weekly talk-radio show. “It wouldn’t have just been a spotlight, it would have been a heat lamp. On him, on all the investigators, on everyone connected to the story.
The cable networks turned Scott and Laci Peterson into household names, DuMont said. “Just think what they would have done with Ted and Mary Jo. Remember all the coverage they gave to the  plane crash that killed John F. Kennedy Jr.? Multiply that by 10.”
Two things argue against this scenario. One – Scott and Laci Peterson didn’t have the upper hand with an adoring media. The Kennedys have always seemed larger than life because the media made them that way. One also has to remember the media of the time knowingly covered up brother Jack’s infidelity. 24/7 news coverage or not, that same sort of mentality was at work with any Kennedy. Expecting a critical look at this particular event is simply not something one can assume – especially given the fact that it never really got it at the time.
Two – Ted Kennedy was shameless. There was nothing that would run him out of public life, to include his cowardly act which led to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Had it been otherwise, the facts surrounding the incident at Chappaquiddick and the amount of coverage it did receive should have been sufficient to do what Zorn claims only 24/7 coverage would have accomplished now. But Kennedy waved it off, ignored it and plowed on.
So while I find Zorn’s point about today’s news cycle (and talk radio) to be interesting, I also find it to be a flawed rationalization for keeping certain bad actors in place supposing that some will become “Ted Kennedys” if we don’t run them off. In fact, he says as much:
Or, as I believe, is the nation — particularly our disabled and disadvantaged residents — better off for the 40 years of service he was able to render after that terrible night?
The momentary satisfaction of destroying Ted Kennedy for his failings would have had a significant price. Something to keep in mind when the next fallen figure, Democrat or Republican, stumbles into the heat lamp.
Zorn’s argument is that justice delayed or belayed might turn out for the better in some cases. That’s an incredibly silly notion. And again you have to agree with the premise that Kennedy’s “40 years of service” were worth Kopechne’s life. Zorn is arguing it is. And he’s not the only one.
Joyce Carol Oates attempts to push the very same premise under a different guise:
His tireless advocacy of civil rights, rights for disabled Americans, health care, voting reform, his courageous vote against the Iraq war (when numerous Democrats including Hillary Clinton voted for it) suggest that there are not only “second acts” in American lives, but that the Renaissance concept of the “fortunate fall” may be relevant here….Yet if one weighs the life of a single young woman against the accomplishments of the man President Obama has called the greatest Democratic senator in history, what is one to think?
One is to think that there isn’t equal justice for all, that some are more privileged and apparently valuable than others. And certainly any future accomplishments, if good, are simply pure luck, even if you agree they’re “good” . We have no way to look into the future and decide that someone will contribute to society in a grand way.
But we can look into the the interior of a ’67 Oldsmobile, see a woman left to drown through the sheer cowardice of the driver who was more concerned about his political career than her life, and draw certain conclusions then.
To some, such as Zorn and Oates, they see a redeemed person who did well with the second chance. Others, such as myself, see such thinking as rationalization for making an exception of Kennedy where they wouldn’t make one for anyone else (despite the lip service). “Second acts” or second chances, where I come from, occur after a price has been paid for the act in question. Kennedy never paid that price.
What Zorn and Oates are really saying here is since it turned out well in their opinion, the ends justify the means. As I see it that’s not justice, it’s elitism on steroids.
Ted Kennedy is being feted by the left as a liberal icon, the liberal lion of the Senate and the new reason for passing health
care insurance reform. Within a few weeks we’ve seen Democrats and the left shift from cost containment (blown away by the CBO) to appeals to religion (blown away because religion doesn’t rely on the state) to the passing of Ted Kennedy. One supposes they believe the emotional argument Kennedy’s death makes will swing support to their side that reason and facts wouldn’t.
There’s one problem with that – although Kennedy may have been “much beloved” among the Senate, the people of Massachusetts and the liberal left, I see no indication that such feelings translate outside of those circles. Certainly not enough to have the public finally throw up its hands and say “oh, the heck with it, let’s pass this travesty for Teddy”.
Let’s make the point again – he was a liberal icon. He was the liberal lion of the Senate. Neither of those mean a whole bunch to folks outside of those relatively small groups.
So that means that Democrats risk “Wellstoneing” this attempt at using Kennedy’s death to push their legislative agenda. If you’re unfamiliar with the public reaction to a memorial to Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) upon his untimely death in an airplane accident, Democrats turned the memorial into an unseemly partisan pep-rally which backfired badly on them. They tried to use Wellstone’s death to rally support for a Democratic successor. It was a pretty sad spectacle and in the end, a Republican Senator emerged as the winner.
I say they “risk Wellstoneing” the Kennedy death because it isn’t clear yet that Democrats have learned and internalized that lesson. They may have. But as I’ve observed the Dems over the years, it seems they always overreach. And recently they’ve done a very, very poor job of reading public sentiment. Oh, and did I mention, they’re obviously desperate right now? Given that, I think they may very well do the same sort of thing again with Kennedy’s death.
An interesting, but unpersuasive argument emerging on the left is that reminding them of the Wellstone fiasco is bad form. Kennedy’s death, apparently, is different and, as I’ve heard any number of them say, he’d be the first to suggest that his name and memory be exploited for political gain.
I think that may be what they truly believe, but even with obvious media support to push the meme, I don’t believe Ted Kennedy has the political heft the left thinks he has. And that sets up precisely what the left needs to avoid – an effect similar to that of the Wellstone memorial, although it will most likely unfold in a different manner than did that event.
Meanwhile, we’re being treated to the beginnings of the exploitation of Kennedy’s death and the overreach for which the left is so famous. As an example, consider liberal talk radio show host Mike Malloy’s recent views on Kennedy:
Good evening, truthseekers, Mike Malloy here, thanks for tuning in…you know as well as I know that the death of Senator Ted Kennedy is the death of a man, absolutely, and everything he was to the people in his extended family, but we also understand it’s the death of an era, one of the remaining, if not THE remaining lynchpin of liberalism in this country is gone.
Aand you know what the term lynchpin means. So with the death of Ted Kennedy last night, liberalism in this country has lost its champion; the person who, in the modern era, personified liberalism to a greater degree than anyone in Congress; I think that his death heralds the beginning of a very, very very dark period in this country.
I remember feeling that way in 1963 and in 1968-when his two brothers were murdered by the right wing in this country.
Lee Harvey Oswald (a communist sympathizer) and Sirhan Sirhan (an Arab Nationalist) have never been considered to be part of the right-wing except, perhaps, in the most twisted of leftist conspiracy theories. But Malloy, who ironically welcomes “truth seekers” isn’t about the truth. It’s about using scare tactics and the left’s favorite boogey man. Of course to do that Malloy must engage in the rewriting of history. His “very, very, very dark period in this country”, presaged by Kennedy’s death, must have right-wing villains. The implication, of course, is that his feelings now, comparable to his feelings when Robert and Jack Kennedy died, can be laid at the feet of the right wing. Case closed.
And so it goes. Expect much more of this in the next few weeks as the desperate left pulls out all the stops, including those of decency and propriety, to push this monstrosity of a health care insurance bill through on the back of a dead Kennedy. As I said, Orwell would have a field day with this stuff.
Via the Liberty Papers, this one is a keeper:
The problems of our economy have occurred not as an outgrowth of laissez-faire, unbridled competition. They have occurred under the guidance of federal agencies, and under the umbrella of federal regulations.
-Sen. Ted Kennedy (1979)
And that remains just as true now about broader government (especially health care/insurance) as it was when Kennedy first uttered it about transportation.
That’s what Nick Gillespie at Reason hopes the death of Ted Kennedy signals.
Gillespie says that when all the lionizing of Kennedy is said and done, a little perusal of what he has been responsible for during his tenure is called for. And, while doing that, we should ponder the effect on our national culture those pieces of legislation have had. After making that analysis, freedom loving people should vow, “never again”.
The legislation for which he will be remembered is precisely the sort of top-down, centralized legislation that needs to be jettisoned in the 21st century. Like Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) and the recently deposed Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Kennedy was in fact a man out of time, a bridge back to the past rather than a guide to the future. His mind-set was very much of a piece with a best-and-the-brightest, centralized mentality that has never served America well over the long haul.
Bigger was better, and government at every level but especially at the highest level, had to lead the way. In an increasingly flat, dispersed, networked world in which power, information, knowledge, purchasing power, and more was rapidly decentralizing, Kennedy was all for sitting at the top of a pyramid and directing activity. In this way, he was of his time and place, a post-war America that figured that all the kinks of everyday life had been mastered by a few experts in government, business, and culture. All you needed to do was have the right guys twirling the dials up and down. As thoughtful observers of all political stripes have noted, this sort of thinking was at best delusional, at worst destructive. And it was always massively expensive.
We are, at this very moment in time, confronting both the cost and the damage wrought by the Kennedy legacy. And the administration in place is, hopefully, the dying gasp of that sort of 20th century thinking brought forward by political impetus alone.
The real message of the August townhalls is that the American people have had enough of that sort of thinking and that sort of legislating. What you’re hearing and seeing are a people beginning to understand and reject the Byrds, Stevens, Kennedys, Obamas and Pelosis of the political world because the price, both literally and figuratively, has become much too high in terms of the their money and their liberty.
Ted Kennedy did what he believed was right and good for America. He was, as Gillespie says, a man of his time. As with all men, his time has passed. It is also time to bury his legacy because just like him, its time has passed as well.
Ted Kennedy died of brain cancer last night at his home in Hyannis Port, MA:
The man known as the “liberal lion of the Senate” had fought a more than year-long battle with brain cancer, and according to his son had lived longer with the disease than his doctors expected him to.
And you can expect him to lionized over the coming weeks. Although I completely disagree with just about everything Kennedy stood for, I wouldn’t wish what he had to suffer on anyone. My sympathies to his family.
However, look for his death to become an emotional rallying point (already begun) for the “reformers” as his death will be shamelessly politicized (also already begun) over the coming weeks in an effort to turn the health care debate around.
On the other hand, the 60 vote “fillibuster proof” Senate is no more. Under MA law the state must hold a special election within 5 months to fill the seat.
I don’t use the “L” word very often but in this case it seems completely appropriate.
Would a government-run health plan upend the employer-based health insurance system used by 160 million Americans?
The Democrats claim the answer is ‘no’.
Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., say their plan would preserve employer-sponsored insurance coverage and create an affordable public option for those who need it.
“The … bill virtually eliminates the dropping of currently covered employees from employer-sponsored health plans,” Kennedy and Dodd said in a letter to members of the Health Committee, one of two Senate groups working on health reform.
The bill includes a “pay or play” provision that would require employers to provide adequate coverage for their workers or subsidize a system that will.
“Pay or play” would require companies to pay the government $750 per full-time worker per year ($375 for part-timers) if they don’t offer health coverage, or if they offer “qualified” coverage but pay less than 60% of workers’ premiums. Small businesses that employ fewer than 25 workers would be exempt.
The Congressional Budget Office, which analyzed the legislation, estimated that by 2019 the same number of workers would be covered by employer-based plans as would otherwise be the case under the current system.
“It tracks what we’re seeing in Massachusetts,” a senior Democratic aide on the Senate Health Committee said on a conference call with reporters.
I’ve put the lie in bold. Why is it a lie? Anyone out there have a $750 a year health care plan? Anyone? I don’t know of a plan for an individual that costs only $750. If there is, then there’d be no reason for any of this nonsense would there?
And Kennedy and Dodd (and the Democrats), the supposed “experts” on health care know that very well. This is pure disingenuousness on their part. This is a blatant attempt to launch a lie to get them past a very important sticking point in the public perception of the bill.
But the average – average – individual health care insurance cost in the US is almost $4,000. And then there’s the cost of administering it.
Hypothetical – you employ 100 people. Let’s say your company pays full health care coverage at the national average (for simplicity sake, assume they all have individual policies). You have two people who administer the coverage at $35,000 each. Your total cost each year to cover your employees is $470,000.
If you pay the federal government $750 per employee a year, your total cost is $75,000. But you can let the two people you’ve had administering your health care program go, saving $71,500 (includes -$1,500 for 2 less employees). Total cost of “pay or play” for you? $3,500 the first year ($73,500 vs. $470,000 every year afterward). In reality, however, it is a net savings of $466,500. You don’t have to be a very good businessman to figure out that one do you?
And remember – these figures only involve “individual” coverage. Family coverage is much more costly, but I see nothing from our two Senate experts which even addresses that. So obviously, the cost of the health care of 100 employees could be vastly more than my simplified example.
No wonder we see corporations coming out now to back this sort of a program. For the vast majority of them, $750 per employee is a huge savings not to mention getting them out of the health care provision and administration business. They’ll pay it gladly. If you like your doctor or your plan, tough beans. You’re going on the government plan. And, of course, the administration will be more than happy to blame your problem on “greedy corporations.”
When they do, just consider the lie and the incentive it provides and then lay the blame precisely where it belongs. Not that it will do you any good where it concerns your present doctor and plan.
Just another step along the road to single-payer brought to you by two lying Senators and backed by the CBO.